How to fast-track your marketing and advertising career growth

It’s no secret: The job market is hot. Companies are clamoring for top talent now more than at any other time in recent memory.

For marketers and creatives, the moment is especially ripe with opportunities. Employers need your skills to help them stay competitive in a digital-first world. And with the record-high quit rates of The Great Resignation showing no signs of slowing, the law of supply and demand is working in your favor.

Employers are getting the message loud and clear; the world of work has changed — probably for good. More companies and agencies are adapting to this new reality, offering remote work and higher compensation, building stronger company cultures, and making other efforts to attract and retain top talent.

This presents a unique opportunity to make rapid progress towards your long-term career ambitions, or find a role or employer that better suits your current professional needs or desire for work-life balance.

But before you jump at the next offer, don’t forget to account for your big-picture goals. No matter how tempting it might be to chase more money or a better title, check in with yourself first.

Where do you see yourself in the long-term, and how does this rung on the ladder lead you there? Is this the right next move for you, and are you prepared to step up in the specific way this role requires? Keep in mind, with higher salaries and bigger opportunities come higher expectations and greater responsibility. 

And if you are fortunate enough to work for a company making a genuine, good-faith effort to improve their culture and morale, remember that a good fit goes both ways. It takes two to tango! 

Rewarding your employer for their efforts by being a stellar team member is a win-win. Not only will it help your own career progress faster, your commitment and contributions will also prove to leadership that what they’re doing is working — and they’ll be more likely to continue investing in the things that make their company a great place to work.

No matter the job market conditions, the best way to quickly grow your marketing career is still by proving your value (and your values) through the actions you take at work every day to help you and your team succeed.

Here’s how to advance your marketing career and position yourself for long-term success in any market.

1. Know what’s expected of you, and master the basics.

The first order of business in any job is to make sure you know exactly what’s expected of you — specifically, how you will be evaluated at performance reviews: what key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll need to meet, and what other qualitative inputs will be considered, like feedback from clients, other team members, or leadership. 

Be proactive and ask during your interview, the onboarding process, and every step of the way, especially as your responsibilities evolve. 

It’s imperative that you understand what success in your role looks like and ensure you’re focusing your efforts accordingly, whether it’s your first day on the job or thousandth.

Of course, if advancement, including a promotion, is your goal, it doesn’t stop there. These expectations are only a baseline, and that level of output is considered table stakes for the role you have now. 

To move up, you’ll need to show your employer that you have what it takes to shine in the role you aspire to have — but you still need to master the one you currently have. This may seem obvious, but it can be tempting to skip this step when your sights are set on higher ground — and doing so could derail your progress.

2. Contribute strategic ideas and creative solutions for company growth.

To truly stand out as a star member of the team, you’ll need to go above and beyond your existing duties.

But simply working harder or putting in more hours may not get you very far, especially if your added effort is misdirected or not aligned with your company’s strategic priorities or your individual KPIs. 

For example, voluntarily picking up the slack for an underperforming coworker may not garner the recognition you’re after if there are more urgent or important projects on your team’s plate, or your strengths are better applied elsewhere.

This is as much about what you choose to work on as it is how much work you do. Take the initiative to identify the highest-impact contributions you can make, and operate proactively. 

Think like a futurist, looking around your industry to try to predict what obstacles your employer may face in the months and years ahead.. Behave like an “intrapreneur,” continuously seeking out opportunities and solutions for company growth. And equip yourself to make higher-value contributions, which might include learning new skills or getting relevant certifications. 

Consider it your job to do your part in crafting a vision for the future of your company — one in which you are a key contributor. Share your ideas generously with the goal of sharing in the company’s success.  

But don’t stop there. Map out how your suggestions could realistically be implemented, rather than simply identifying issues. 

In doing so, you’ll demonstrate to your manager and team that you’re both pragmatic and creative, that you understand the business and market realities in a way a leader would, and that you’re committed to your company’s success.

3. Focus on your team’s success, not just your own.

More professionals are feeling empowered to speak up for what they want, and to demand fair treatment and compensation — and though the Great Resignation hasn’t been easy for employers, we celebrate this transparency as a win-win. When workers are candid and clear about their goals, it’s better for everyone’s long-term success.

Ultimately, we all have ambitions and aspirations for our careers, and we know that it’s up to us to make those happen. (If you didn’t feel that way, you probably wouldn’t be reading this!)

But as you consider your individual growth, don’t forget that your network is your net worth. 

And the network that truly matters most to your career success is not the one you only associate with at industry meetups or happy hours: It’s the one you’re building with your co-workers every day at work.

Few people will be more able or willing to speak to your strengths in specific terms, or connect you to ideal opportunities in the future, than the colleagues you have right now. So be sure you’re nurturing those relationships (and your reputation!) through your daily actions.

Stay connected with colleagues through daily informal chats, particularly if you’re on a remote or hybrid team. (You’ll generate more ideas and solutions if you understand what your colleagues are working on, anyway!) Then work collaboratively with your team towards your common goals and strategic priorities, and pitch in where you’re needed.

After all, having a “that’s not in my job description” attitude is sure to keep you stuck in your current job — if you’re lucky. 

Being a “team player” means looking out for the team, and not just yourself. Having a collaborative approach encourages problem-solving, boosts efficiency and productivity, and contributes to a positive workplace atmosphere. Regardless of how observant your manager is, that attitude won’t go unnoticed by the people working alongside you and you never know when you may need their help in the future.

4. Quantify your achievements and advocate for yourself.

Don’t be shy about your professional goals. Your employer can’t help you grow your career if they don’t know what you want or where you’d like to be in 3 to 5 years. 

As The Great Resignation has brought to light, one of the leading causes of job dissatisfaction is a lack of growth opportunities or an unclear path for career advancement. More employers are now mapping out career growth opportunities in an effort to recruit and retain top talent in this market, but they’re not all there yet. 

Before assuming there’s nowhere for you to grow in your current company, express your ambitions directly with your manager. Approach the conversation openly and in good faith, assuming that your manager values you and wants you to succeed within the company. 

Employers are not going to promote you or create new opportunities just to keep you satisfied, of course; you’ll need to make your case and focus on the value you bring. Actions speak louder than words, but it’s still up to you to track, quantify, and communicate your achievements. 

Certain achievements may go unnoticed unless you speak up and “merchandise” your work in a way that affirms its value. Do what it takes to make sure your boss knows that you’re going above and beyond.

Take it upon yourself to schedule regular check-in meetings, send email updates that include a summary report of what you’ve accomplished, and forward any praise you receive. And every month or quarter, calculate the numerical results of your work as much as possible. 
It may feel uncomfortable, but a little self-promotion goes a long way. Remember, your boss wants to hear about the good things you’re doing and the praise you’ve received — it reflects well on them! One way to avoid feeling like you’re always tooting your own horn is to praise the contributions of others while you’re at it.

5. Lean into your leadership skills, no matter your role.

To thrive in your career, you’ll need to work on more than your marketing or advertising skillset. Employers want to hire marketers and creatives who are able to present ideas confidently, represent the company or agency in a client-facing capacity, and manage people, projects, and change. They want leaders.

Even if you’re not in a formal leadership role, demonstrating leadership skills will accelerate your career. Effective leadership has nothing to do with a title or position on an org chart. It doesn’t even reflect seniority or experience level. 

Instead, effective leadership is about taking personal responsibility, being proactive, and solving problems. It’s about demonstrating integrity, being dependable, building relationships, and motivating the people around you.

You can be a leader at any stage of your career by stepping up for your team and working towards shared goals, not just your own individual achievements.

If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that adaptability and resilience matter, especially when your back is against the wall. Performing well under pressure shows that you have the emotional intelligence and confidence of someone your team can depend on to lead the way when stakes are high.

6. Build trust by being consistent and reliable.

This moment in history will pass; the labor market is always in flux. But the actions you take now will have ripple effects in your career for years to come. Be consistent in how you show up to work every day and contribute to your team’s success to cement your reputation.

Leaders need to know they can rely on you before entrusting you with greater responsibility.

Recommending someone for a promotion or other advancement opportunity comes with risks, and doing so when you haven’t proven yourself could be a costly mistake affecting your manager’s own career. The same applies to introductions, referrals, and recommendations by colleagues within your network; your work becomes a reflection of the person who recommended or introduced you.

Building trust takes time, and it happens through repeated encounters. It happens when your actions consistently match your words.

Don’t expect overnight recognition; be patient. Your career will take off when people know they can truly trust you to perform and excel with integrity, and that trust can be built only by you being a reliably high performer, not just some of the time, like when you’re feeling particularly motivated to advance or when there’s something clearly in it for you.

Don’t go it alone. Build a career advancement team.

Getting on the career fast track is not something you can do on your own. Not only will you need your professional network of colleagues, but mentors, coaches, and other professionals can offer guidance and support and open doors for you along the way. 

No matter how competitive the market, a talent expert can help you advance your career and position yourself for long-term success.

It’s important to build relationships with recruiters, even if you’re not actively looking for a new role.

We know the market well, and can be realistic with you about what’s possible for the next step in your career. 

Because our team has such deep expertise in the world of marketing and advertising (many of us came from the industry before landing in staffing!), we understand what you do and where you want to go better than you may expect. Let us be your career advisor.

Never hesitate to reach out to the Freeman+Leonard team on LinkedIn to start a conversation or to follow up on a job application.

Where will your career take you next? 

We have a few ideas for you at: